Stack your auto insurance to protect yourself: a real life story
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on April 15th, 2011
Stacking costs little and means better protection in the event of an accident
Let me tell you a little story about auto insurance, smart pre-planning and what happens if you are injured in a vehicle crash by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
Recently, a MyPhillyLawyer client was riding his bicycle in Montgomery County and turning left in an intersection when he was struck by a pick-up truck at 35 mph. The crash left him with severe leg injuries that required major surgery and the installation of a metal rod, several fractured ribs and other injuries. One leg is now slightly shorter than the other and the crash left him with significant long-term pain. The victim was unable to work during recovery and physical rehabilitation but was eventually able to return to work in a wheelchair until he was more mobile.
His injuries were severe and required expensive surgeries and treatment to get him to where he is today.
The problem was that the pick-up truck that struck him and caused the crash was driven by a motorist who only had $50,000 in liability insurance coverage. That meant that the maximum amount of damages that could be paid to the bicyclist was $50,000 by the driver’s insurance company.
That amount, however, was way below what was required for our client’s injuries, medical care and pain and suffering.
Instead, MyPhillyLawyer was able to secure a $525,000 settlement for our client by utilizing the insurance coverage that our client already had under his own family auto insurance policies. Because he was struck by another vehicle while he was riding his bicycle, state insurance laws in Pennsylvania allowed payment for injuries under his auto insurance policies. And because his family owns more than one motor vehicle, Pennsylvania law allowed him to “stack,” or add together, the liability insurance that he had purchased for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. By stacking your liability insurance coverage, you can create a larger pool of insurance availability in the event of damages or injuries.
At least 18 other states in addition to Pennsylvania allow stacking of auto liability coverage.
For insured motorist who want to protect their rights, their families and their livelihoods in the event of a motor vehicle accident, stacking is a huge issue to discuss with your insurance agent – especially before you are ever in an accident.
And stacking is a good deal financially, too, because most of the time it costs less to stack your coverage for multiple vehicles than it does to pay comparable premiums for higher levels of coverage for each single vehicle. In fact, the additional cost of stacking is minimal so you can usually double or triple your coverage for very little extra money.
In Pennsylvania, the minimum insurance liability coverage that you can have by law is $15,000 for injuries or death of one person, with at least $30,000 of coverage for multiple persons in a single crash. You are also required to have a minimum of $5,000 in property damage coverage. This is referred to as 15/30/5 coverage by insurance companies.
Obviously, those minimum coverage levels are too low to protect you or others in an accident.
So if you have liability coverage of $100,000/$300,000/$50,000 on each vehicle you own and then stack them, you’d double or triple your coverage, giving you much improved protection.
The lesson learned here is that your own level of insurance is critically important if another motorist should cause injuries to you or your loved ones but doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay for your injuries and losses.
In such a case, you can be victimized twice – by the crash that has left you badly injured and by an inability to receive damages to cover your injuries and costs, as well as for your pain and suffering.
For our recent client, that didn’t happen because he was well-protected through his own higher auto insurance coverage limits and by his policy stacking provisions.
We recommend that you take this real life lesson to heart and speak with your insurance agent to be sure that your liability coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists truly protects you and your family in the event of a severe accident.
It’s a low-cost way to ensure that such a tragedy would not leave you without enough insurance coverage to pay for your injuries and losses.
Sadly, many times in any given year we settle auto accident cases for clients for only $15,000 in damages because that’s all the insurance coverage that is available to them. And those clients often have substantial injuries that will cost them far more than that amount will treat. The problem is that the chances of getting a higher settlement from someone who injures you but doesn’t have adequate liability insurance is typically slim to none.
That’s why you need to take the initiative to protect yourself.
You can find more information about auto insurance in Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvania Insurance Department Web site, including a fact sheet that describes insurance terms, insurance shopping advice and more. The agency administers state insurance laws on behalf of consumers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
If you have additional questions or concerns, give us a call here at MyPhillyLawyer, where we are here to help you in the event that you or someone in your family is injured in a vehicle crash.
When winning matters most, call MyPhillyLawyer.